Speaking at a fundraiser in a wealthy San Francisco suburb, President Obama praised the looks of California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
“You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake,” Obama said. “She also happens to be, by far, the best looking attorney general in the country.”
“It’s true! C’mon,” he added, to laughter from the crowd.
It was an offensive comment that opened old wounds among women who fight to be recognized for more than their looks. I could hear the collective “no he didn’t” screaming like Big Mama ready to take a chunk out of Baby Boy’s backside.
Women are hurt by Obama’s insensitivity to the battles they continue to fight on the workplace.
“Well, he told the truth, nothing but the truth....He also mentioned her other attributes. My take, there's nothing wrong with complimenting a person.”
Not one man took the bait. Not one. The lack of conversation regarding this topic speaks volumes involving the continuing disconnect between women’s rights and the men who are too self-consumed to care enough to engage. The tough lessons about gender bias are critical for those women who continue to grapple to find place in a world dominated by white men. Yes, there is still a glass ceiling in corporate America.
The term glass ceiling was first used by two women at Hewlett-Packard in 1979. Katherine Lawrence and Marianne Schreiber used it to describe the point in which women were unable to move beyond in their pursuit of promotion. Obama’s comments were distasteful due to how the underlying assumptions feed into notions of legitimacy regarding women in the workplace.
Not a word from the men.
I took a few stabs to set the table for a deeper discussion. What are the lessons? Maybe its men don’t care enough to discuss how looks determine their decision. Maybe they didn’t get the memo that day.